The Legend of Zelda (#2)

As a young gamer, Ocarina of Time had a humongous impact on me. The classic heroes journey, mixed with a bright and inviting world, just called to me. Clearly it called to others as well, as the franchise has been celebrated by fans since 1986 with an impressive 19 games to date. Toss in the countless art/history books, not to mention the rumors of a Netflix series, and you can see a passionate fan-base that can’t get enough of the adventures in Hyrule. Though the images of Link, Zelda, and Ganon don tons of merchandising, we have yet to see them on the cover of an official tabletop RPG release. Upon researching, I found many folks in the RPG community have written home-brewed rules to bring this world to life.  So, the desire is present within this vibrant community. With tabletop RPGs riding a high right now, it’s time The Legend of Zelda comes to the table.

Strengths:

  • Iconic World
  • Wide Audience
  • Strong Characters/Lore
  • Interesting Puzzles
  • Bright/Fun Setting

Like many fantasy settings, the world itself has to become a character. Full of mysteries to explore and foes to overcome, right off the bat, we know that Hyrule has all of this. Temples to investigate, puzzles to solve, and most importantly, a villain that continues to captivate players almost 30 years later. I can’t think of a better setup for new DMs, as you can take locations and dungeons straight from the many games, all while the players work to obtain special items to assist in their quest to defeat Ganon. It’s a simple yet poetic heroes tale that would be easy to run for first time DMs. In addition, Hyrule brings a bright and vibrant setting  that stands apart from most on the market. I think this is an underrated aspect that would attract many new players and some veterans that maybe tired of darker tones.

You could use a number of different systems for a Zelda tabletop RPG, because at it’s core, Hyrule is a fantasy setting. The opportunity I see is a system that builds upon the idea of preparing and tackling a temple or dungeon. Perhaps a key or some knowledge is required to enter the temple or dungeon.  All while puzzles and boss monsters impede the way into the lower levels. The rule-book could also provide mechanics or advice on how to run these puzzles in dungeons. Puzzles play such a key role in the video games, but they are tricky to pull of in a tabletop RPG as players can get rather frustrated, but unlike a video game, can’t simply walk away and take a break. So, some DM guidance on difficultly, or having more than one way to solve them, would help bring that Zelda experience to life. That being said, there are more obstacles than just puzzles in order to create a fun tabletop RPG.

Weakness:

  • Playing Main Characters
  • Lower Magic Setting

As a DM playing in the world of Hyrule, be prepared for many players to create elves wearing green tunics with a name variation of Link or Zelda. It’s natural to mimic a favorite hero for your first character, and my advice to DMs would be to just run with it.  If this helps the player get into character, it is completely fine to model a character off pop-culture. I can’t tell you how many Drow rangers I have played with as people loved to take inspiration from some of D&D’s most famous heroes.  I say embrace it, but just know people coming from the video game may approach it that way. Do encourage them to put a small twist on their “Link”. What makes him different, or what will he encounter in your game that may cause him to break from the classic archetype? Just food for thought here.

I have not played even close to all 19 Zelda games, so there could be some that are different, but at least in the beginning, the game starts with the player having no real magic. It’s not until the player obtains special artifacts or uncovers the Triforce that he/she can utilize magic. This being the case, a tabletop RPG version would need to make up for these lack of options with either interesting combat maneuvers (like in D&D 4e), or an assortment of magical/special items. I could also see a class option that has access to minor magics, but just not to the level you would find in D&D. Also, by limiting magic early on, when the players finally access the Triforce it will feel more impactful.

Though it maybe tricky developing puzzles and working around magic a bit, the world of Hyrule is one that is loved by a vast number of people. The classic heroes journey is a tale that is told at many tables, but could benefit from a more lighthearted brush.

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